“Only boring people get bored,” have you heard that before? Well, don’t worry, it’s a load of crap, actually. Unless you just complain about how boring your life is, and then roll over in your bed, wallowing in self-pity – that saying is not true. First of all, don’t let anyone tell you you’re boring! You are who you are, enjoy what you do and don’t listen to anyone judging you by their (clearly very low) standards. Those stupid sayings can be very hurtful, so just be you! Secondly, everyone gets bored, it’s a normal part of the circle of life, such as successes and failures, pooping, being interested in something, or being tired. It’s a signal, and we need to accept it and learn how to read it.
Before diving into how to squeeze some positivity out of the already-negatively perceived boredom, it’s worth having a think about what boredom is because there is a difference between boredom and – as mentioned at the beginning – being bored.
Before you jump into one solution or the other – the solution being a new class or 5-minute crying session, depending – think about the state you are in. Are you being bored because you’re unconsciously avoiding the task, or just want someone to fill your time so you don’t have to make an effort? Or are you experiencing a moment of uncertainty, maybe the opposite – you feel overstimulated and exhausted?
I will not touch upon the first, because fighting with being bored includes certain motivation-focused tasks – such as meditation, goal setting, working on discipline and plan, time blocking. Those work best if you are looking for a way out (depending on the source fo your “being bored” feelings, of course!). I would like to dive deeper into boredom that is a sign from your brain.
One more thing: English author Neil Gaiman, the prolific and very creative mind behind multiple fiction stories, novels, comics, audiobooks, and films (most notably: “Coraline,” “Stardust,” great tv shows “American Gods,” “Good Omens,” comic book series “The Sandman,” and more) once said: “boredom is the place you create from in self-defense.”
In 193, British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell wrote an essay boldly titled “In Praise of Idleness” that deals with a similar issue, but on a much deeper and philosophical level. As much as the world changed since then, the topic of “smart leisure” is still applicable.
I want to say, in all seriousness, that a great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by the belief in the virtuousness of work, and that the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.Bertrand Russell
3 LESSONS FROM BOREDOM
BOREDOM HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND YOU
Being faced with an empty evening is scary, but this is when you should ask yourself a question: what do I actually want to do? In today’s world there so much going on that we don’t get to ponder that question. We mindlessly reach for our phones, scroll through a digital (rarely old school) newspaper, watch some Netflix, or even browse thought the movies on Netflix without watching anything – all to avoid boredom. There is a constant flow of actions, triggers, and offers from around that it’s difficult to stop and decided, “wait, is it even something that I like, something that fulfills my dreams or plans?” More often than not we chose to participate in things that don’t really make us happy, don’t offer any positive stimulation and absolutely stop us from enjoying the moment.
If you’re aware of yourself, this is not a problem, you know what you want to do. But even then it’s worth it to stop and examine our choices. It may happen that in the event of some free time you read a book because you love reading, but is it a book you really want to be reading (how many of us are guilty of reading a book till the end just because we started it, without any interested)? Or maybe you color the adult coloring book because this is what people do nowadays (by the way, who said coloring needs to be divided between kids and adults? phew!)? And more – we change and grow as humans, and what made us smile 5 years ago, or even a few months ago, isn’t necessarily something that we shall, and want to, continue. Do we know that? Some of us do, yes. But some don’t really focus on the reasons or choices. So if you consciously recognize boredom, you can use that time to try new things, self-reflect on what feels best, what fuels your mind and body, what makes you tick. You can analyze your days in order to find areas that you can improve, or simply things you get excited about. Get more aligned with yourself, be more present in the moment and enjoy your time.
Good nature is, of all moral qualities, the one that the world needs most, and good nature is the result of ease and security, not of a life of arduous struggle.Bertrand Russell
BOREDOM CAN FUEL CREATIVITY
It might not be clear at first, because boredom isn’t associated with doing stuff, but the truth is it can fuel your imagination. If you experience boredom searching for something more, or if you experience boredom because there is too much mindless stimulation – your brain will try to seek solace somewhere else. If our mind cannot find the stimuli to satisfy its own cravings, it will find alternative and unconventional ways to fix that.
Our brain needs to freshen up from time to time, provide new impulses, challenges, incentives. It’s natural to seek for more. Coming up with “crazy” ideas and being creative is one of the answers. Boredom encourages our minds to wander, allows freedom of thought and association. It can enable creativity and problem-solving by allowing the mind to wander and daydream. The brain is looking at the world differently, thinking, “Ooohh, I don’t think I used this chair to fly a plane yet!” So, when you’re bored, let your mind reset and relax and find inspiration, so you can activate new ways of thinking.
BORED IS A BREAK FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Even cooking up creative ideas because of boredom can be challenging and strenuous. Add to it the current way of life most of us endure: get up too early, sink in the phone screen and news straight up, work, not enough energy to work out, tired to even think about watching a movie, then stressing about work on money… Add some “fast fixes” to it as well, as to combat the above, we usually indulge in mindless Instagram scrolling, too much ice-cream or pizza, early naps, maybe more work to make sure the money comes in… Yes, I generalize, but this is still a prominent lifestyle! With so much going on, and not enough coming from us to restart the health of our brain – breaks are necessary not to burn out too soon, not to get crazy (and the crazy may come in different forms – a heartbreak, weight gain, chronic fatigue, severed family ties…). Experiencing boredom offers a way out, a muchly needed a deep breath for your sanity, a reset. Escape from over-stimulation, or already mentioned mindless stimulation. It offers a restart of our brain and fresh air for new moments of our life.
OK, so let’s say you do experience boredom – it can be daunting and overwhelming to take it head-on. Also, I know for some it might be even a bit difficult because they never approach boredom – let’s say their parents organized every second of their life, or they had some pressure form life, work, family. If we start from zero and we don’t know ourselves in a way to squeeze the pros of boredom to the last drop, there are some activities that can help to put a little bit of structure to a boredom time, add some tips to how to deal with it.
- Do some mundane or routine tasks – technically, chores feel boring, so why is that a good way to rediscover boredom? For the untrained mind that doesn’t know how to approach boredom, they would offer some structure, but no ruminating thoughts – so you won’t be faced with silence if you’re not used to it, but you won’t be engaging your brain in some heavy thinking either. This will let you train your mind to realize that boredom is not about what you do, but how you do it. It will teach you to enjoy the slow and steady tasks, to focus your attention. It’s a good way to start because while you put those glasses into the dishwasher, your mind can wander to a completely something different subject, daydream, and get a bit more relaxed.
- Keep a journal – journaling is beneficial in the long run, but if you don’t want to do it in this sense, just keep a notebook somewhere on you that you can access when you’re bored. It will come in handy to note down some feelings, but also ideas. Feelings will help you figure out how boredom influences you, what emotions it evokes; something that you can use to analyze yourself, make sure you can sure boredom to grow, and adopt positive changes. In addition, from the random thoughts and ideas, you might actually develop something valuable later on!
- Meditate – meditation is advised as a practice to achieve mindfulness and agreement with life. Dan Harris, who wrote “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head” said that “meditation and mindfulness are the next big public health revolution.” Not only when you experience boredom, but in many more situations, meditation can help you connect with yourself, learn more about how you operate, what you want, or might want. It can improve your impulses, attention, willpower skills, and self-awareness. When you can tame those, you will see reality differently, and you will utilize your creativity more!
I’ll stop right here, as not to overwhelm you. My hope (and advice) is to try the above three, see where they take you, notice what works and what doesn’t. And I’m just as sure as the sun sets at the end of the day that this alone will inspire you to find your own ways to get chummy with boredom, and boredom will inspire you to be more creative, more rooted and aware of what goes on in your life!